A power of attorney is a way of transferring the legal ability to sign
documents from one person to another. This need may often become
necessary when people become incapacitated or when they are in any other
respect unable to sign documents for themselves. A “power of attorney
in fact” ensures that only specifically designated individuals can take
care of financial papers or other important matters if it becomes
necessary. Using a power of attorney to sign papers on someone else’s behalf
is a serious responsibility with serious ramifications. You should
ensure that you understand what the individual wants you to handle
before he or she hands over power to sign on their interests.
Reason You Might Need A Power of Attorney
Individuals commonly require the legal power of attorney to sign documents on another person’s behalf for a number of reasons.
· You may need to sign documents for an incapacitated spouse regarding
property matters. Some institutions may not deal with a spouse on legal
matters unless he or she has a power of attorney.
· You may have an aging parent that requires you to take over their
financial affairs because of physical disability or mental incapacity
· You may be asked to take care of the financial affairs of a family
member or close friend that must be out of the country for a period of
· Individuals may wish to avoid the possibility of a court appointing a
guardian to manage their affairs in unexpected circumstances in which
they are incapacitated.
Acquiring A Power of Attorney
Each state has its own rules regarding the transfer of power of attorney
to another individual. A number of sites provide appropriate legal
forms for your state that you can download for use. Generally, a simple
power of attorney form must be filled out, notarized and signed by one
or two witnesses in order to comply with the laws. Other requirements
may also be necessary, depending on the statutes in your state. Power of
attorney forms should always be stored in a safe place so you can
access them easily when necessary.
Signing Documents With A Power of Attorney
In most cases, you will be required to provide a copy of the power of
attorney to the institution to ensure that the correct legal procedures
have been followed. You may wish to keep a number of copies of the Power
of Attorney document on hand so that you can provide it, as needed, in
various circumstances. You can then sign the document on behalf of the
person for which you have been designated the legal agent in complete
compliance with the law. You can only sign documents for which the
individual has approved you to sign. Any violation of the understanding
between the two individuals is illegal and may be cause for criminal
Having the power of attorney to sign documents for another individual is
a serious responsibility that should be undertaken with appropriate
care. The power of attorney should only be given to someone who has the
complete trust of the individual.